Location: Hamden, CT (200 Mt. Carmel Ave.)
Time: About 2 Hours
Summary: This was our first hike in a series of 10 to 14 hikes across Connecticut as a part of the Connecticut State Parks Sky's the Limit initiative, which is a part of No Child Left Inside. I couldn't wait to get started and we had our sights set on Sleeping Giant State Park since I've heard so many great things about it. Overall the hike took us roughly 2 hours from bottom to top and back again, complete with breaks, scrambles and some goofing around.
Ill be honest, my first impression wasn't great. Bascially, the most popular and kid-friendly trail is a wide dirt road that slowly winds it's way up a hill, like switchback only somewhat boring and dull. Don't get me wrong, the woods are spacious and pleasant to my eye but you have to imagine these hikes as a kid. Do you want to walk uphill, through unchanging scenery for an hour (or more depending on your child's pace)? My four-year-old started the whine about ten minutes in, mostly because he wasn't interested in what was around him.
The promise of a cool tower at the summit of Mt. Carmel almost pays off. Almost. The thing that tipped the scale in favor of this hike was the restroom at the top, because this dad forgot to take his oldest to the bathroom earlier. Could have been disasterous since two minutes from the summit I heard those dreaded words behind me "Daddy, I have to poo." Phew.
There are some great rock formations and on the way down we would ocasioanlly opt in to a scramble to cut out some of the mundane dirt path. We made it enjoyable by racing from tree to tree and talking about the lollipop that awaited us in the van.
It's a longish hike for 3-4 year olds. Doable for 5+. But personally I think it's a bit tame as a hike and there are plenty of more rewarding options in the state replete with rivers, waterfalls and vistas. Its worth a visit but not at the top of my list.
Total sidenote: we broke in two new pieces of gear today. Eli had brand new Keens, the Koven Low WP (waterproof), and I was using the Osprey Poco Child Carrier for the first time. I was absolutely blown away at the stability and ergonomics of Eli's new shoes. He had great support but had no issue sprinting across rough terrain today. He had no complaints and would remark on how great they fit.
I really wasn't sure if I was buying in to come market hype regarding the Osprey child carrier, but after using it on a relatively rigorous short hike, I can thus far say that it was well worth the $200 price tag. Sam was comfortable, it feels very low profile even fully loaded, and the weight is put to my hips via the belt very well. I'll do a full review on it soon because I'm so impressed with it.
But the take away from this is to check out some of the other parks on my list and visit those first. Sleeping Giant was a great workout (especially when I carried Eli and Sam at the same time) but didn't offer much excitement for two boys. There were some more intense trails that occasionally crossed the red dot trail, but they are more suited for adults and older kids. If you're looking for a decent kids hike with a great view, check out Soapstone Mountain in the Shenipsit State Forest (review to come).